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Avoiding Project Failure Dissertation

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Project management have become increasingly important in the development of any nation. Various organisations have used project management techniques as a means of bridging the gap between failure and success in implementation of projects. Despite this increasing awareness of project management by organisations, projects still fail.

The purpose of this dissertation is to systematically investigate the causes of project failure and how these can be prevented, managed, or controlled. Research studies investigating the reasons why projects fail, has been ongoing for years, with various researchers, organisations and project management institutions, providing lists of reasons, which they believe, are the cause of project failure. However, despite these lists projects continue to fail, Atkinson (1999).

This research is done with the anticipation of not only adding information to the body of knowledge already in existence, but also examining the major issues currently causing project failure; this will help organisations effectively manage projects. To determine how to avoid project failure the criteria for measuring project success has to be properly determined and agreed upon; the major criteria commonly used are; cost, time and quality. Then the causes of project failure need to be determined.

This study also examined generalisations made from existing literature about causes of project failure and methods of avoiding project failure using three construction case studies in United Kingdom. This is a secondary or desk research, which involves the collecting and analysis of secondary data, or data that already exists, from which inferences have been made, and conclusions drawn.


1.1Research background

Projects make a vital contribution to industrialisation and hence the growth of a nation's economy. The importance of projects in the development of any nation cannot be overemphasized. This is demonstrated in various literatures explaining the success and failure of projects. Although projects are said to be important, its implementation can be an uphill task. Various researchers have discussed project management as a technique to help prevent against failure in projects. Others have established checklists to help prevent failure. Despite the increased project management awareness and these checklists, some projects still fail, Atkinson (1999).

All projects are constrained by inherent risks; knowledge of these risks will play an important role in achieving success and avoiding failure. Usually projects consist of three stages consisting of the approval, execution and evaluation stages. If any of these stages is not managed properly it may result to the failure of the entire project.

Failure or Success in projects is a multi-dimensional issue and may be influenced by so many factors. Some projects may have failed in project management practices including cost overrun, scope creep, delay in schedule etc, and other projects may fail in procurement practices. Despite these failures in the following areas the project may still be perceived as successful by the end users. An example is Wembley Stadium; despite all the issues associated with the project in terms of project management and procurement practices, it is still perceived to be successful and a state of the art stadium by the end users. This may result from the fact that it has hosted world class sporting events.

Usually, projects are designed to meet stakeholder's objective. These objectives define the criteria for success of that project, and projects not satisfying these objectives are deem to fail. Effective communication and clarity in the stakeholder's objective is vital to the project manager.

This thesis examines the causes of project failure and how these can be prevented, managed or controlled. It discusses project failure and success with the help of case studies in order to identify the critical success factors and reduce failure in the implementation of projects.

This research is done with the anticipation of not only adding information to the body of knowledge already in existence, but also in defining the criteria for project success and identifying the variables involved. This will help organisations effectively manage projects.

1.2 Aim

The aim of this research is to carry out appraisal on the causes of project failure and the appropriate methods of avoiding project failure. This aim is intended to be achieved with the following objectives.

1.3 Objectives

To provide a review of project management

To analyze success criteria for projects

To explore factors that causes project failure or success

To examine methods of avoiding project failure

1.4 Scope

This research is based on construction projects executed in the United Kingdom over the last two decades.

1.5 Research Structure

Chapter One, Introduction this introduces the research; topic highlighting the aim, objectives and scope of the research.

Chapter Two, Literature review critically reviews the existing Literature regarding the subject. It establishes the definition of project success and the success and failure criteria / factors.

Chapter Three, Methodology describes the methodology used to undertake this research. It demonstrates the fact that secondary data was mostly used in undertaking this research.

Chapter Four, Case Studies - Case studies on projects from the UK construction Industry were discussed in this Chapter. These case studies were analysed and linked to the literature review chapter.

Chapter Five consists of the analysis of the discussion and findings. This is derived from critically analysing the Wembley, Heathrow terminal five (T5) and Holyrood case studies.

Chapter Six, Conclusion and Recommendation: This chapter concludes the research and suggests directions for further research.


2.1 Introduction

The importance of avoiding project failure in a rapidly evolving project-driven 21st century cannot be over-emphasized. Attempts to understand the causes of project failure and/ or success have proven problematic, despite attempt by many practitioners and academics over the years. Project demands have constantly increased over the last decade and have driven our society into a constantly changing environment.

Despite attempts to make project appraisal and delivery more rigorous, a considerable proportion of delivery effort results in project that does not meet user expectations and are consequently rejected. In our view this can be attributed to the fact that few organisations have the facilities, training and management discipline to bring project to successful completion.

Project success does not come easily; much has been contributed over the last decade to our understanding of the nature of and reason for successful and unsuccessful project completion. In addition many projects fail to complete at all. Sometime failure to satisfy all the original goals of a project can still be regarded favourably if the main sponsor is not satisfied with the outcome and the key stakeholders have gained in some way.

Generally, the key development considerations are to have the goal clearly defined, to plan how to realize the goal and implement the plan. Developing an alternative methodology for project management founded on stakeholders, senior management support and proper planning should lead to a better understanding of the management issues that may contribute to the successful delivery of projects.

This literature review is aimed at carrying out appraisal on the causes of project failure and the appropriate methods of avoiding it. It begins with key definitions, then analysis of causes of project failure and project success. Then it looks at success factors and criteria; also examine ways of avoiding project failure. The chapter ends with summary of the discussion.

2.2 What is a Project?

Gary and Larson (2008:5) defined project as “a complex, non routine, one-time effort limited by time, budget and resource, and performance specifications designed to meet customer needs. This is in contrast to how an organisation generally works on a permanent basis to produce their goods and services. For example the work of an organisation may be to manufacture a vehicle on a continual basis, therefore the work is considered functional as the organisation creates the same products or services over-and -over again and people hold their roles on a semi permanent basis.

A project can be defined as having constraints (usually centred around time and resources, but also including all aspect of the process and the outcome); projects are processes that in many circumstances are core business for organisation. The diagram below show different levels in project management.

2.3 What is Project Management?

According to Gray and Larson (2006) Project management is a task derived from an organisation that enables professional project managers to use their skills, tools and knowledge to plan, execute and control a unique project within a limited lifespan by meeting the specification requirements of the organisation. Since the outcomes of the capital projects have strategic implications on the success and profitability of the business, the ability to deliver based on pre-determined objectives should be critical to the company's success.

And yet one-third of all the oil and gas projects exceed budget and time projections by more than 10 percent. Failure to deliver big projects on budget and on schedule is highly publicized and damage the companies profile with capital markets that predictability and strong returns. Continual use of traditional project management techniques will not alter this trend. Companies that want to change and improve on their performance with critical capital projects will need to adopt new techniques.

Munns and Bjeirmi (1996) also defined project management as a process used as a control to achieve the project objectives by utilizing the organisational structure and resources to manage a project with the application of tools and techniques, without disrupting the routine operation of the company.

‘Project management is the discipline of managing all the different resources and aspects of the project in such a way that the resources will deliver all the output that is required to complete the project within the defined scope, time, and cost constraints. These are agreed upon the project initiation stage and by the time the project begins all stakeholders and team members will have a clear understanding and acceptance of the process, methodology and expected outcome'.(http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/introduction-project-management.html accessed on 30/06/09)

Project management has been defined as “the process by which projects (unique, complex, non- routine, one-time effort limited by time, budget, and resources) are defined, planned, monitored, controlled and delivered such that the agreed benefits are realised” (APM, 2006:3)

Other definitions have been offered, Reiss suggests that a project is a human activity that achieves a clear objective against a time scale, and to achieve this while pointing out that a simple description is not possible, he suggested that project management is a combination of management and planning and management of change.

Despite all the suggestions about what is project management, the criteria for success, namely, cost, time, and quality remain and are included in the actual description. Meaning that Oisen's definition of project management was either correct, or as a discipline, project management has not really changed or developed the success criteria over 50 years. Therefore project management is a learning profession. The significant point from all the definitions and suggestions of project management is that while the factors have developed and adopted, changes to the success criteria have been suggested but remain unchanged.

In 2008, a survey undertaken by Booz Allen Hamilton (project management consultant) which comprises of 20 companies in engineering, procurement and construction; shows that 40 percent of all projects executed where faced with cost overruns and behind schedule. These overrun in cost and schedule has led to client's dissatisfaction on project performance; this view also agree with the research of M J Lang (1990). Therefore effective project management is very vital in such a volatile business environment.

2.4 Project Management Methodology

Generally, projects are split into three phases Initiation, implementation and closure. Every stage of a project has multiple checkpoints which must be met before the starting of the next stage. The degree to which a project will be managed depends on the size of the project.

For a complex project in a large organisation that involves a number of people, resources, time and money, a more structural approach is needed, and there will be more steps built into each stage of the project to ensure that the project delivers the anticipated end result. For a simple project in a small organisation, agreed milestones, a few checklists and someone to co-ordinate the project may be all that is required.

2.5 Defining Project Failure

From Penguin English Dictionary (1992), failure is define as unsuccessful project that fails to perform a duty or an expected action, non-occurrence or non-performance. Whereas success can be defined as the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted (Cambridge Dictionary, 2007). It is also said that success is an event that accomplishes its intended purpose (dictionary.com, 2007). Anything short of that is failure. Project failure is an unpleasant event that cost large amount of money to the organisation.

2.6 Causes of Project Failure

Pinto and Mantel (1990) carried out a research on the causes of project failure and revealed a good explanation that encompasses both internal efficiency and external effectiveness. They state that project failure is a vague concept, which has evoked much as to its definition, as the case with the definition of project success.

A project is considered a failure “whenever a project does not meet the expectations of the stakeholders”. This has lots of impact to both the organisation and all stakeholders to the project. They include: cost and time overruns, quality degradation, frustration and stress, sometimes resulting to people quitting, low corporate market value, low public opinion and negative media campaigns. The total effect can be very costly to the organisation; at times even force the company into closure.

Bienkoski (1989) identified ten factors that can lead to project failure and they are:

* Lack of change management- happens when there is no method to handle or recognise changes.

* Communication- causes delay or even failure since team members do not have the information they needed, issues or changes do not get escalated, project reporting is sluggish

* Inadequate resources- Task take longer than expected to complete, deadlines and milestones get missed, and project completion date comes into jeopardy, one end of working more than necessary (double shift) to get the work done

* No one is in control, not even the project manager, who is assigned to the project but not given the free hand to manage the project. This is most problem encounters in matrix organisation

* Project lacks structure caused by things such as critical tasks being under rated

* Inaccurate estimates. A top- down plan causes constraints on the prediction of the cost of the project

* Poor risk management. The project initiation stage is not properly planned

* Insufficient non-resources are not allocated to the project; for instance, it is not possible for a project to succeed if the right resources are made available for that project

* Incompetent project management skill

* Project changes from its original objective and goals. This can occur due to additional requirement from the client

Pinto and mantel (1990) argue that the major causes of project failure are changes in the project environment, as it goes out of hands of the management.

2.7 Defining Project Success

Lewis (2005) states that project success can be defined as meeting the required expectation of the stakeholders and achieving its intended purpose. This can be attained by understanding what the end result would be, and then stating the deliverables of the project. Shenhar et al. (2001) state the opposite: that project success is commonly judged by time and budget goals criteria, whereas in some cases this does not apply to some projects.

Thiry (2006) argues that project success can only be defined if executives are able to consider the contribution of benefits and if the project is able to achieve these measures in relation to resources, competencies and complexity within the project parameters.

2.8 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a Measurement for Project Success

The purpose of the KPIs is to enable measurement of project and organisational performance throughout the construction industry (The KPI Working Group 2000).

Collins (2000) advocates that the process of developing KPIs involves the consideration of the following factors:

* KPIs are general indicators of performance that focus on critical aspects of output or outcomes

* Only a limited, management number of KPIs is maintainable for regular use. Having too many (complex) KPIs can be time-and resource-consuming

* The systematic use of KPIs is essential as the value of KPIs is almost completely derived from their consistent use over a number of projects

* Data collection must be made as simple as possible.

* A large sample size is required to reduce the impact of project specific variables. Therefore, KPis should be designed to use on every building project.

* For performance measurement to be effective, the measures must be acceptable, understood and owned across the organisation

* KPIs will need to evolve and it is likely that a set of KPIs will be subject to change and refinement

* Graphic delays of KPIs need to be simple in design, easy to update and accessible.

Key Performance indicators for measuring project success can be illustrated with the help of the diagram below (Albert & Ada, 2004).

They identified the following as the measurement of project success: Cost, time, quality, commercial profitable/value, environmental performance, user expectation/ satisfaction, health and safety and participants' satisfaction. This will help in explaining what the project success might mean to different stakeholders.

Key Performance Indicators

Dvir et al. (2003) state that the ranking of success is a one-sided judgement, as the definition of success is difficult to define, because it has different meanings for different people; thus, the criteria of success should reflect the diverse interest and view that lead to a multi-dimensional and multi-criteria approach.

Baccarini (1999) states: that success entails “hard” criteria which often linked with cost, time and quality. He also states that hard criteria which can be easily measured can lead to some form of substantial agreement. In contrast, soft criteria are known to be one sided, restrained and not easily assessed. This implies that project success is a fantasy of the mind and only an individual can turn such vision into reality.

A contrasting view from Westerveld (2000) defined project success as “the satisfaction of all the stakeholders', meaning that as long as the stakeholders are pleased with the outcome and gain profits or revenue from the project, then it is classed as a success.

One of the "Square's root" corners, organisational benefits, drew much attention because of its significance and it was further analysed. Kerzner (2001, p6) suggests three criteria from the organization perspective in order for a project to be successful.

The first is that it must be completed "with minimum or mutually agreed upon scope changes", even though stakeholders constantly have different views about projects' results (Maylor, 2005, p288).

Secondly “without disturbing the main work flow of the organization" because a project has to assist organisation's everyday operations and try to make them more efficient and effective.

Finally, it should be completed "without changing the corporate culture" even though projects are "almost exclusively concerned with change - with knocking down the old and building up the new" (Baguley, 1995, p8).

A project manager's main responsibility is to make sure that he delivers change only where is necessary, otherwise he is doomed to find strong resistance from almost all organisational departments (Kerzner, 2001, p158) which ultimately could lead to project failure.

A more structured approach to project success is grouping the criteria into categories. Wideman (1996, p3-4) describes four groups, all of them time dependent: "internal project objectives (efficiency during the project), benefit to customer (effectiveness in the short term), direct contribution (in the medium term) and future opportunity (in the long term)".

The characterization of ‘time dependent' is based on the fact that success varies with time. Looking at the future benefits of the organisation can be really difficult, because in some cases they don't even know what they want, yet it is vital to know what the project is trying to achieve after completion time so that success criteria are clearly defined in the early stages.

This is quite a different approach, because the focus moves from the present success criteria to the future, in a way that a project can be unsuccessful during execution if it is judged by criteria like cost and quality, but in the long term it can turn to be a thriving story.

A good example of this hypothesis is hosting the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, which received mass criticism both during the planning period, due to delays in construction time, and when it was finished, due to huge cost. But the benefits that Greece will gain from the Olympic Games can be fully understood after 5 or maybe 10 years from the hosting year (Athens2004.com).

All the above success criteria "should be simple and attainable and, once defined, they should also be ranked according to priority" (Right Track Associates, 2003). Straightforward criteria are easy to understand by everyone involved in the project and therefore commitment is guaranteed.

Unrealistic criteria can put a ‘failure' label on many projects because of the unreachable standards, can generate low team esteem and team performance in future projects and finally generate unfair disappointment among stakeholders. As for priority issues, it is inevitable that things will go wrong and the project manager will be in a tough situation where he must make the right decision having in mind that he has to sacrifice the least important success criterion.

Also Shenhar et ‘al (1997) are of view that project success can be seen from the four area:

Project efficiency, impact of the project to the customer, business success and finally what the project holds for the future. This was further explain in the diagram in 3.

2.9 Defining Project Success Factors and Project Success Criteria

Muller and Turner (2007) defined the two components of project success in relation to the use of project management as follows:

Project success factors are the elements of a project that can be influenced to increase the like hood of success; these are independent variable that makes success more likely.

Project success criteria are the measures by which judge the successful outcome of a project; these are dependent variable which measure project success.

We often hear or read about various success stories. But what is success and what criteria should organizations use to identify success? What factors lead to a successful project?

The purpose of this study is to define project success criteria, clarify their difference with success factors and analyse their importance in project management methodology.

One of the vaguest concepts of project management is project success. Since each individual or group of people who are involved in a project have different needs and expectations, it is very unsurprising that they interpret project success in their own way of understanding (Cleland & Ireland, 2004, p2).

"For those involved with a project, project success is normally thought of as the achievement of some pre-determined project goals" (Lim & Mohamed, 1999, p244) while the general public has different views, commonly based on user satisfaction.

A classic example of different perspective of successful project is the Sydney Opera House project (Thomsett, 2002), which went 16 times over budget and took 4 times more to finish than originally planned.

But the final impact that the Opera House created was so big that no one remembers the original missed goals. The project was a big success for the people and at the same time a big failure from the project management perspective.

On the other hand, the Millennium Dome in London was a project on time and on budget but in the eyes of the British people was considered a failure because it didn't deliver the awe and glamour that it was supposed to generate (Cammack, 2005).

"In the same way that quality requires both conformance to the specifications and fitness for use, project success requires a combination of product success (service, result, or outcome) and project management success" (Duncan, 2004).

The difference between criteria and factors is fuzzy for many people. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary describes a criterion as "a standard by which you judge, decide about or deal with something" while a factor is explained as "a fact or situation which influences the result of something".

Lim & Mohamed applied those definitions to project success and illustrated the difference. It is clear now that critical factors can lead to a series of events which ultimately meet the overall success criteria of the project, so they should not be used as synonymous terms.

Project success can be seen from two different perceptive, the micro and macro viewpoint (Lim & Mohamed, 1999). This can help in better understanding of what project success means to different people.

2.9.1 Success Criteria

Many lists of success criteria have been introduced in the previous decades by various researchers. Primal success criteria have been an integrated part of project management theory given that early definitions of project management included the so called ‘Iron Triangle' success criteria - cost, time and quality. (Atkinson, 1999, p338)

Atkinson continues that "as a discipline, project management has not really changed or developed the success measurement criteria in almost 50 years".

To meet the urgent need of modernizing the out of date success criteria, he suggest the ‘Square Route' ( 3) success criteria instead of the ‘Iron Triangle', where he groups the criteria that other academics have proposed.

The main change is the addition of qualitative objectives rather than quantitative, namely the benefits that different group of people can receive from the project. These benefits are seen from two perspectives, one from the organisational view and one from the stakeholders view.

It is obvious that each part will have benefit differently from projects. For example one organisation can gain profit through achieving strategic goals when a project is completed and at the same time these goals have a serious environmental impact in the stakeholders' community.

This means that a successful project must bargain between the benefits of the organisation and the satisfaction of end users. The fourth corner of the ‘Square Root' is the Information System which includes the subjects of maintainability, reliability and validity of project outcomes.

Belassi and Tukel (2001) are of the opinion that criteria for measuring project success/failure can grouped into two groups: the factor and system response groups. The identified factor groups are: factor related to project manager, factor related to project team members, factor related to the project itself, the organisation handling the project and the factor related to the external environment in which the project takes place. The diagram below shows this in more detail.

2.9.2 Success Factors

As mentioned earlier; "success factors are those inputs to the management system that lead directly or indirectly to the success of the project or business" (Cooke-Davies, 2002, p185). Some project managers "intuitively and informally determine their own success factors.

However, if these factors are not explicitly identified and recorded, they will not become part of formal project management reporting process nor they become part of the historical project data" (Rad & Levin, 2002, p18). Belassi & Tukel (1996, p144) classified these factors into 5 distinct groups according to which element they relate to. The Organization

Top management support is the principal success factor for many independent research groups (Tukel & Rom, 1998, p48) (CHAOS Report, 2001, p4) (Cleland & Ireland, 2002, p210) (Tinnirello, 2002, p14), which means that no project can finish successfully unless the project manager secures true support from the senior or operational management.

It is extremely difficult to work in a hostile environment where nobody understands the benefits that the project will deliver to the organisation.

Stakeholder management and contract strategies (number of and size of the contracts, interface between the different contracts and the management of contracts) are separate success factors which are also considered part of organization issues (Torp, Austeng & Mengesha, 2004, p4). The Project Manager

Having a project manager is not going to guarantee the success of a project. He must have a number of skills to use during the project to guide the rest of the team to successfully complete all the objectives.

In the 2001 CHAOS report (The Standish Group International, 2001, p6), business, communication, responsiveness, process, results, operational, realism and technological skills are mentioned as some of the most important skills a project manager should have to deliver success.

However, more resent research by Turner and Muller (2005, p59) has concluded that "the leadership style and competence of the project manager have no impact on project success". It is very interesting to investigate why a highly respectable professional body for project managers published such a contradictive position.

A possible answer could be found in the fact that project manager's results are difficult to prove and even more difficult to measure.

If the project is successful, senior management will probably claim that all external factors were favourable. On the contrary, if it turns to be a failure, project manager easily becomes the scapegoat. The Project Team

Project managers are very lucky if they have the option to choose their project team. More often, their team is inherited to the project from various sectors of the organisation.

It is vital to have a good project team to work with, with core skills that can be evolved to core competences and capabilities for the whole organisation.

All members of the project team must be committed to the success of the project and the overall mission of the company.

Apart from their skills and commitment, project team members should have clear communication channels to access "both the functional manager and the project manager within a matrix organization.

Effective management of this dual reporting is often a critical success factor for the project" (PMBOK Guide, 2004, p215). The Project Itself

The type of a project underlines some factors that are important to success. For example, if a project is urgent, the critical factor in that case is time.

The Wembley stadium is expected to be fully operational due to May's 2006 FA Cup Final and that is the primary target.

However, the increase of cost "that has thrown the management's calculations out of kilter" (Evans, 2005) was not a big issue at that time.

The size, value of a project and it's uniqueness of activities can be a puzzle for the project manager who is used to planning and co-ordinating common and simple activities (Belassi & Tukel, 1996, p144). The External Environment

External environment can be the political, economic, socio-culture and technological (PEST) context in which the project is executed. Factors like the weather, work accidents or the government's favourable or unfavourable legislation can affect the project in all of its phases.

Note that if a client is from outside the organization, he should also be considered as an external factor influencing the project performance (Belassi & Tukel, 1996, p145).

Competitors should also be accounted as external factors which can undermine project success because the original project could be overshadowed by a more glamorous and successful project launched by another organisation.

2.9.3 Methods of Avoiding Project failure

Project success makes organisation stronger and better, and that means it is important to ensure that organisation choose the right project; allocate the right resources, track progress along the way and taking an unflinching look at actual result.(http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/pdf/do-you-know-where-your-project-is.pdf. accessed on 12/07/09). More ways of avoiding project failure will be discussed in detail in the subsequent chapter.

2.9.4 Summary

It is critical for a project manager to understand what the stakeholders consider as a successful project.

In order to avoid any surprises at the end of the project, there is an urgent need to identify the different perspectives of what success means before the project goes live.

It is also vital to remember that success criteria are the standards by which a project will be judged, while success factors are the facts that shape the result of projects.

Success criteria have changed considerably through time and moved from the classic iron triangle's view of time, cost and quality to a broader framework which includes benefits for the organisation and user satisfaction. An additional framework to capture success criteria depending on time was also described.

As for success factors, they were grouped into five distinct sets and the literature views were find to contradict on the issue of how critical a project manager is to the final success of the project.

A common factor mentioned by many authors is senior management support for the project and it is recognized as one of the most important factors of all.

In conclusion, early definition of success criteria can ensure an undisputed view of how the project will be judged and early detection of success factors will guarantee a safe path to deliver success.


3.1 Overview

Projects have become increasingly important in the development of any nation. Various firms have used project management techniques as a means of bridging the gap between failure and success in the implementation of projects. Despite this increasing awareness of project management by firms, projects still fail. Several factors may affect the outcome of a project. The researcher highlighted various success and failure factors of projects in an earlier chapter. This has formed the basis for the research question.

3.2 Research Questions

Yin (1994:4) suggests that the type of research method chosen for a study should depend upon three conditions:

1. The type of question posed;

2. The extent of control the investigator has over actual behavioural events; and

3. The degree of focus on current as opposed to historical events.

Based on the factors mentioned in the literature which may affect the project outcome; the following research questions were framed.

* What are the criteria for measuring project success?

* What factors lead to success/failure?

* How can these issues be prevented or controlled?

Questions generally fall into two categories of ‘who', ‘what', ‘where', ‘how' and ‘why'. Each of these is best suited to different types of research methods according to Yin (1994:5).

Experiments, historical studies and case studies are mainly used to answer ‘how' and ‘why' questions while surveys and archival analyses are used to answer ‘who', what' ‘where' and ‘how'. Also Yin (1994:5) points out that ‘what' question, can be either exploratory or statistical. The latter type of ‘what' question is better answered through quantitative research while former benefits from enquiries.

The fundamental questions of this study are both exploratory (‘what') and explanatory (‘how'). The exploratory question, “what are the criteria for measuring project success?” and “what factors lead to success / failure”? are central to this study. Finally, this study ask “how can these issues be prevented or controlled” in order to avoid project from failing.

3.3 Research Design

The research design provides the direction in which the researcher used in carrying out this research. Based on the nature of this research, the selected research design utilised will be that of a case study. The research methodology will explain the various researches utilised. Ghauri and Gronhaug (2005:109) define research methods as an orderly collection of data for the purpose of obtaining information to answer a specific research objective.

3.4 Method of Data Collection

In this research, articles gathered from other authors were critically reviewed.

Bryman and Bell (2003, p.212) states that, the secondary analysis is considered to be the most suitable data collection method. The researcher employed the use of the following as a source of secondary data collection.

Secondary analysis - in this library -based dissertation proposal the secondary analysis is considered to be most suitable data collection method. It uses data that are collected by other researchers or by various institutions in the course of their business; for example official statistics.

Bryan and Bell (2003,p212) defined secondary analysis as: “the analysis of data by researchers who will probably not have involved in the collection of those data, for the purposes that in all likelihood were not envisaged by those responsible for the data collection”

Hence this method can be used in either qualitative or quantitative study method based on the nature of the data. Also the secondary source examination may be considered as producing a re evaluation that would then become a primary source and possible contribution to the literature. Saunders et al. (2003) classified secondary data in three types:


Multiple sources


The researcher decided to use this method because it has the following number of advantages:

Resource Efficient

Opportunity for longitudinal analysis

Provides comparative and contextual data

Offers new interpretation of data

Provides comparative and contextual data

3.4.1 Desktop Study

The researcher analysed the work of various authors and authority on the subject matter. Information regarding project failure was obtained through the following including journals, published books, databases and Government websites.

3.4.2 Journals

In this study, the following journals were reviewed and analysed because they are well referenced. They are the work carried out by professional in the field with varied years of experiences over years. They help in clarifying the subject of this research; the journal include

European Journal of Innovative Management

International Journal of Project Management

Project Management Journal

Advanced Management Journal

Journal of Marketing Research

Journal of Operation Management

International Journal of Production Research

Strategic Management Journal

International Journal of Operation and Production Management

3.4.3 Databases

Databases contain very vital information and in this research I sought for information that relates to project management in different industries.

ABI Inform




Science Direct


Web of Knowledge

Wiley Interscience

Google Scholar

Joule Library, The University of Manchester

Computer World


3.4.4 Government Website

I sought for information in government website because this is a place where the laid down procedures are published and industries must strictly adhere to. For instance office of government commerce contain information relating to best practice which construction firms must follow in the United Kingdom. They include

Office of Government Commerce (OGC)

National Audit office (NAO)

Other potential sources of information are textbooks available in the library, academic research journals like the supply chain management journal, and the journal of operations and logistics. Publications and websites of Project Management Institutions like PMI (Project Management Institute) and APM (Association of Project Management). Refereed conferences, Dissertations/theses, reports/occasional papers, trade journals, newspapers, and magazines.

3.4.5 Literature Review

In carrying out any research project, it is important to first of all review any literature considered to be relevant to the research being carried out. It is during the reviewing related literature that a theoretical framework for doing any quantitative study is formed. For instance when an existing knowledge is carefully considered, key variables and relationships are uncovered. Because no research project exists as an island, previous studies must constitute part of the process of discovery. According to Ghauri and Gronhaug (2005:52), a literature review is principally intended to:

* Frame the problem being studied

* Identify relevant concepts, methods/ techniques and facts; and

* Position the study in terms of its intended contribution to knowledge

3.4.6 Case Studies

Case studies provide an opportunity for a problem to be studied in depth (Bell 2005)

Yin (2003) explains that case study approach facilitates the use of multiple sources of evidence. Ghauri and Gronhaug (2005:114) stressed that case studies are especially useful when the phenomena being investigated cannot practically be studied outside its natural environment and / or when variables being studied are not easy to quantify.

The researcher has used some construction case studies to highlight failure and success.

These case studies include :

Heathrow BAA terminal 5

Wembley Stadium

Holyrood Parliament building

These case studies were used by the researcher because they cut the application of project management, their sizes, complexity and financial implications involved in the development of such projects. These projects also reflected the various processes which could result to failure or success if managed appropriately. Such processes include effective project management practices, procurement practices, management of stakeholders etc.

Several factors and lessons learned were identified and highlighted by the researcher to ensure best practice in the execution of projects.

3.5 Limitations

Due to the time constraint in this research, the researcher based his case studies on the construction industry. Other industries should have been researched to establish the similarities and challenges involved in avoiding project failure.

Case studies of projects in developing nations should have also been discussed, to establish if Government policies, geographical locations and etc also impact projects.

Secondly, the literature review does not give a wider scope, covering project success and failure in all industrial sectors. Moreover data does not look at more than one company over a period of time to gain valuable and reliable data. Finally there are insufficient data on one definition of project success and failure; many authors work would have been reviewed before arriving at a conclusion.


The purpose of the case studies in this research is to identify the factors that have lead these projects to success or failure, by examining the main facts behind each project used in the case. These case studies are the most common ones in the construction industry and in terms of applications of project management. They are transferable to construction projects in any other geographical location in the world, though every project has its uniqueness. They are

The Holyrood (Scottish Parliamentary Building project)

These various case studies will be reviewed in detail to see examine which factors contributed to success or failure of these project.

4.1 Wembley Stadium Project- Successful/Failures

The aim of this project was to design and build a distinctive, state-of-the art national stadium; a world -class home for English football. Plus, in addition to hosting major football events, such as the FA final and England International matches, the stadium was to be capable of staging major athletics and music events. Its design was to be both functional and architecturally significant: an iconic replacement for the old Wembley stadium, world famous for its twin towers. A key prerequisite of the new venue was spectator comfort, for example, the provision of comfortable seats, generous leg-room, obstructable view of the pitch, and outstanding catering facilities.

The new stadium will generate an important new income stream for the FA with a proportion of the profits being reinvested in football.

4.1.1 Project Scope

Design and building of a stadium for staging football, rugby league and music events, also could be adapted to stage major athletic competitions with a removable platform, rather than a permanent running track. Incorporated in the project are hotel, office accommodation and a visitor centre.

Cost of Wembley Stadium project: Budgeted cost for this project was about £751M but due to design changes and unrealistic cost estimate the project cost more than budgeted.

Parties involved: Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL) is the client while Multiplex an Australian construction company is the major contractor with many subcontractors.

Purpose of the Project: To design and build a stadium for staging football, rugby league and music events.

4.1.2 Why Chosen Wembley Project as a Case?

This case study was chosen because of its size and complexity in terms of engineering design. Also it is an innovative project with many stakeholders, government involvement and a project with a single contractor managing many subcontractors. This project also cut the application of project management in a changing and challenging environment.

4.2 London Heathrow Terminal five Project

London Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the whole world; an extension project to the terminal was initiated by British Airport Authority (BAA). The essence of this project is to build a terminal that would cater for more passenger as the number of daily passengers increases on daily basis (Aviation Daily 2001).

4.2.1 Reason for Choosing This Case (HEATHROW TERMINAL 5)

I chose this case because it is a project that cut across the project management best practice. Also it show how important it is for every project participant to be up and committed in ensuring that a project is delivered as agreed.

This project is intended to revolutionize United Kingdom construction project management practice, leading Brady et al. (2008) to classify the development as a ‘megaproject'.

4.2.2 Cost of London Heathrow Terminal 5 Project

4.3billion pound was budgeted for the construction of T5; though British Airport Authority invested £300 million in order to move to T5 bearing in mind that their bid would surpass that of their competitors, KLM and Air France. The project commenced in September 2002 and was funded by BAA.

An application for this project was filed by BAA in 1993. This project was well planned, as it was the longest project with public inquiry in British planning history; which contained 500 proofs of evidence, 5000 words of documents, 400 members of the public and 35MPs and MEPs, inclusive of 30million words collated from 700 witnesses, and 80,000 transcripts of evidences were produced. The project was approved in November 2001 by Stephen Byers, the transport secretary. BAA was both the client and the project manager for this project owing to the fact that they want to apply other project management method that is unique to the ones the UK construction industries has been using. There is no main contractor in this project; a framework agreement was use to appoint 60 tier one suppliers. Ten of the top suppliers are appointed based on the value of work performed.

T5 is the largest free-standing building-the waveform roof with airy, light and contemporary architectural design. It took about eighteen and half years to develop (planning and its associated public inquiry lasted 10 years). T5 is deemed as one of the UK's most successful construction programmes.

T5 project process was based on partnering and collaboration .Under the ‘T5 Agreement' BAA entered into a direct contractual relationship with all their ‘First Tier' suppliers (main suppliers, contrators and consultants),of which there were over 80.

T5 consisted of 16 projects, which in turn were divided into 147 sub-projects. Each sub project was run by an integrated design and construction team, containing between 6 and 25.First Tier Suppliers that was led by a BAA project manager.

4.2.3 T5 Contract

The main objective of the Agreement was to create a unique contract under which BAA retained all the risk relating to the project. Additionally, the contract needed to be flexible as BAA appreciated that their requirements would change during the course of the contract

The contract is generally considered to be a balanced agreement, which facilitates appropriate relationships and behaviours. Drafted in a non-adversarial style, the negative and potentially confrontational aspects of traditional construction contracts were replaced by a commercial model and policy that created commercial tension without erecting commercial barriers. While not explicitly derived from the NEC form, the two contacts have aspects of partnering and integrated working in common. The contract was designed to enable all participants to concentrate on:

The root cause of problems and not their effects

Working within integrated teams to deliver success in an uncertain environment

The proactive management of risk rather than the avoidance of litigation

Note: The T5 agreement was supported by BAA's novel risk insurance policy.

Each first-tier supplier was responsible for appointing, developing and managing their own supply chain (‘second' and ‘lower' tier suppliers/subcontractors). BAA expected the contractual arrangements within the supply chain to conform to the principles of the T5 agreement, for example, to avoid risks being transferred down the chain to those least able to carry them and to promote cooperative working methods. To this, BAA recommended the use of modified version of the NEC Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) to appoint second tier suppliers.

4.2.4 Risk Management With Respect to T5 Project

A key component of the T5 Agreement, and a major departure from common practice, was the notion that BAA retained ownership of risk rather than seeking to transfer it.

Transferring risk will be counter-productive; many risks are unforeseeable before or during the bidding process and it is naive to behave as if they are:

“The old game would be to go to the market with an incomplete understanding of what you want, ask for bids without understanding the inherent risks and then get bids from contractors that are designed to beat the competition rather than address the real risks.” (Tony Douglas Managing Director of the T5 Project), no construction company would be able to carry the financial liabilities generated by the £4.2bn project

Irrespective of how risks are apportioned, ultimately the purchaser always bears and pays for the risk.

As a result BAA retained all risk on the Project (eliminating it from the supply chain) and insured it, rather than requiring suppliers to include it in their prices.

4.2.5 Cost Reimbursement

Pre-emptive risk management: Integrated teams were responsible for identifying the ‘root cause' of each risk in a timely manner, assembling the most appropriate resources and managing the risk as effectively as possible

Integrated teams - BAA''s strategy was to adopt a problem solving approach to risk, identifying its sources at an early stage and then assembling the best resources(integrated teams) to proactively manage them.

Promotion of a non-adversarial approach or no blame policy

Collaborative project software: To facilitate open and timely communication within the integrated project teams, T5 utilised a collaborative project software package that provided access to the programme, scope of work, and risk reports. The system was also credited with helping to reduce misunderstanding and delays

4.2.6 Difference between T5 and conventional contract principles

T5 assumptions

Conventional principles

Cannot transfer risk

Transfer of risk

Remain Flexible

Price in advance

Integrated teams

Profit at risk

BAA manages the risk


Active risk management

Defined scope

Reimburse properly incurred

Employer's team

Profit levels pre agreed

Skill and Care

Emerging pre-planned scope

Compliance/remedies driven

Single integrated team values


Exceptional performance

Performance are not exceptional


Goals/target sometimes are not well defined


Conventional principle do not accept liability

BAA (T5) clearly went for relationship management. They understood that they were building a mega project which would have been difficult to transfer the risks involved to a contractors considering the potential changes in the project. They made the decision that they are better placed to manage the risks. Also, they had studied similar projects around the world and the outcome was not pleasing to them to follow the conventional way of doing a project. It seems that all the projects they examine both in the UK and abroad had cost overrun and delayed completion.

So they took the decision to manage the project themselves. It was a good decision but there were always elements of what if …….

BAA concluded that without the adoption of a fundamentally different delivery methodology, the T5 project would have exceeded budget by more than £1 bn.

4.3 The Holyrood Project

The Procurement Route and Construction Manager:

The decision to adopt construction management as the procurement vehicle for the construction of Holyrood building was found to be “one of the most significant, if not the most significant” decision taken during the course of the project. Construction management is one of the relatively new ‘fast track' methods of construction procurement, developed in 1980s.

Under this arrangement, (construction management design) tendering and construction overlap. The client employs a designer and, separately, a construction manager who is engaged as a fee earning consultant to programme and co-ordinate the design and construction activities.

The actual construction activities are divided into three packages which are sequentially put out to tender and are undertaken by trade contractors who are contracted to the client.

Construction management offers the advantage of speed but with the disadvantage of price uncertainty until the last package contract has been leased.

4.3.1 Reason for Choosing this Case Study (Holyrood)

This case was chosen because it shows an example of bad practice in project management. It be also be used to illustrate the importance of awarding a project contract based on merit. A big lesson can be learn from this project because it a project that involve the general public and the government.

4.3.2 Holy rood Project - Successful/Failure

The Scottish office chose the construction management procurement route in July 1998 after due professional consideration, including advice from the design team. However, they did not prepare a comprehensive procurement strategy document, and the procurement strategy for the new Parliament was incomplete in that:

There should have been a reason analysis supporting the adoption of the construction management route represented by the appointment of Bovis as construction managers in January 1999. Such a strategy consideration of the procurement route could have been best conducted at the beginning of 1998, in conjunction with the evaluation leading to the decision to proceed with an international designer competition for the new Parliament building.

There should have been a systematic assessment of the risk implicit in the chosen procurement route (designer appointment and subsequent construction management) and how best to manage these risk.

4.3.3 Cost Increase of the Project (Holy rood Building)

The increase in cost came after the handover in 1998; they can be attributed to request for redesign of the debating chamber in early 2000; increased requirement for space and budget, and increase in cost due to the foyer roof and use of Kemnay granite.

The Auditor General for Scotland undertook examination of the project under the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000. This report identified a number of project management and government issues. For instance whilst recognising the unique and complex nature of the project, the report identified some shortfalls. These include shortfalls in the procurement strategy, on project cost reporting and in accounting for the risk.


5.1 Introduction

Project success and failures are dependent on how the stakeholders and people that will be affected by the project perceived it. For instance Wembley Stadium project received lots of criticism from the general public because of increase in cost originally budgeted for the project; dispute between the main contractor Multiplex and the subcontractors over payment and other issues. But at the end the project received several awards and at the same time termed as a successful project by the stakeholders. Project success can be seen from the following point of view:

5.1.1 Meeting design goals which include

* Operational specification

* Technical specification

* Time goals

* Budget goals

5.2.2 Impact on the customer

* Fulfilling customer needs

* Solving major organisational problems

* Actually used by the customer

* Level of customer satisfaction

5.2.3 Benefits to the organisation

* Level of commercial success

* Generated a large market share

* Opened a new market

* Opened a new line of product

* Developed a new technology

From Pinto and Mantel (1990); project success and failure can be assessed based on the implementation process, the perceived value of the project and client's satisfaction with the delivered project. The implementation process is primarily concerned with the internal efficiency of the project execution whereas value and satisfaction the client or the user had from the completed/ delivered project are the project external effectiveness and impact.

Therefore in more advanced phases of a project, external factors such as customer needs and satisfaction become more important. Baker, et al. (1988) suggested that overruns in budget and time cease to be important after the project is terminated. Then customer satisfaction and its relation to the project organisation continue to be important even beyond project boundaries.

5.3.1 Success Dimension 1- Project Efficiency

These measures project success in short- term, measure the efficiency with which a project process is managed. It simply tells us was completed on time and within the specified budget. It also show immediate dimension with which the project can be assessed, first during execution, and immediately after completion. Although success in this dimension may indicate a well-managed, efficient project, but may not indicate success in long-term nor benefit to the organisation.

However with increased competition and shorter product life cycle, time-to-market (time to initiate concept to market introduction) becomes a crucial component. Enhanced project efficiency should therefore be seen as adding to product competitiveness.

Some organisations may use additional measures of efficiency. For example, the number of design changes before the final design release, cost of material and tooling, efficiency and yield of production ramp (Wheel- Wright & Clark, 1992). Other measures may involve efficiency of reliability, safety etc. However one must realize that all of these measures relate to successful implementation of project execution, and does not mean total success.

5.3.2 Success Dimension 2- Impact on the customer

These had to do with the importance organisation should place on customer requirement and real needs. These involve meeting performance measure, functional requirement, and technical specifications.

From the contractors point of view, this dimension also includes the level of customer satisfaction, the extent to which the customer is using the product, and whether the customer is willing to come back for the a follow-up project.

5.3.3 Success Dimension 3- Business and Direct Success

This dimension has to do with the direct impact the project may have on the organisation. In the business context, these questions are asked;

Did it provide sales, income as profits as expected?

Did it help to increase business results and gain market share?

However this dimension may apply to projects not aimed at building new products. For example, internal reengineering projects (Hammer & Champy, 1993).

This is the measure with which such an assessment could be made. It will include measures of performance time, cycle time, yield and quality of the process, and total improvement of the organisational performance. All of these will assess the direct impact the project had on the organisation.


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